Environment

Marshall Fire Update by the Awful Numbers

An aerial look at damage from the Marshall fire.
An aerial look at damage from the Marshall fire. 9News via YouTube
Today, January 7, Governor Jared Polis and U.S. Representative Joe Neguse, joined by senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, are scheduled to guide President Joe Biden on a tour of the areas devastated by the Marshall Fire. Two people are still missing after the blaze, which was 100 percent contained earlier this week; partial human remains were found near Marshall Road on January 5.

In advance of Biden's visit, Boulder County has provided new information about the number of buildings impacted — and the statistics are startling. More than 1,000 homes were destroyed, over 100 were damaged, and losses are estimated at over half a billion dollars, making this one of the most expensive catastrophes in Colorado history. And the final cost will be significantly higher.

In recent days, inspectors with the Boulder Office of Disaster Management, among others, have conducted wide-ranging assessments as Boulder County, the City of Louisville and the Town of Superior update the list of residential and commercial structures partly or wholly ruined. Here's the updated rundown for residential structures:
City of Louisville: 550 structures destroyed, 43 structures damaged; actual value* of residential damage is approximately $229,199,184

Town of Superior: 378 structures destroyed, 58 structures damaged; actual value of residential damage is approximately $152,757,462

Unincorporated Boulder County: 156 structures destroyed, 48 damaged; actual value of residential damage is approximately $131,255,944
These figures come to 1,084 residential structures destroyed and 149 residential structures damaged. That brings the overall countywide total loss, as estimated by the Boulder County assessor, to $513,212,589.

How does that compare to previous catastrophes? The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association calculates costs by insured losses. Assuming that all of the destroyed and damaged structures were insured, and using the assessor's values, the Marshall fire would be in sixth place on the chart below, just below the wildfire that struck Colorado Springs in 2012, after the statistics are updated to 2021 dollars.
Moreover, the current total doesn't include damage to commercial structures. According to Boulder County, four commercial structures were destroyed and fourteen damaged in Louisville, and three commercial structures were destroyed and fourteen damaged in Superior. In addition, two commercial structures were damaged in unincorporated Boulder County, adding up to seven commercial structures destroyed and thirty damaged countywide — and officials say the actual value of these losses "is incomplete and being calculated."

Click to access an updated list of damaged buildings, a searchable map and the Boulder County Wildfire Fund.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts